Having embarked on her Mer-maiden voyage (pun intended), Richard Branson's latest cruise ship – the Valiant Lady – has officially set sail on the high seas for summer 2022.
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Whisking you away to your dream destinations, the luxury cruiseliner is packed to the rafters with everything you'll need for an oceanic adventure - think decadent eateries, a festival-like lineup of immersive entertainment and lavish spa & fitness facilities.
With summer on the horizon, I stepped on board for a memorable week-long voyage along the Mediterranean, starting in Barcelona and docking in Toulon, Marina di Carrara, Ajaccio, Cagliari and Ibiza.
Designed as a 'sanctuary at sea for the 18+ traveller' – I'm revealing exactly what I thought of Virgin's newest cruise ship.
Prices start from £824.53 per sailor on Virgin's Valiant Lady
The food was top tier
Having previously travelled with other cruise lines back in my teens, I already expected the food to be five-star – and the Valiant Lady certainly delivered on that front.
Korean BBQ, Mexican, traditional Italian, plant-based and Mediterranean-inspired Mezze are just some of the many cuisines you can experience onboard.
The ship's Korean BBQ restaurant offers an immersive experience
Each and every restaurant had an impeccable menu, with the staff happy to recommend their favourite dishes and wine pairings.
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My favourite restaurant by far was 'The Wake' which is described as offering a 'sophisticated take on steak and seafood.' While sailors are invited to dress as formally or as casually as they like for dinner, the moment you descend the faintly-lit staircase you're immersed into a world of opulent mid-twentieth-century interiors.
Ultra-glam, champagne was served by the glass from a magnum bottle, while the menu featured a number of eclectic and decadent dishes worthy of an influencer's feed. If you're determined to sample all the restaurants on board - this is my top recommendation by far.
My favourite restaurant on the ship - The Wake
Of course, if you're looking to keep things low-key, there were plenty of food bars to visit for lunch or a light bite. I personally completed the menu at Pizza Place – with no regrets – where each and every pizza is handmade from scratch.
The pizza is handmade from scratch
The main daytime hotspot was without a doubt The Galley – an elegant food hall complete with a dedicated bakery and pastry shop, a panini shop, burger grill, taco shack and sushi bar serving bento boxes. I won't lie, I'm still having withdrawals from the incredible food!
My only concern would be for those travellers with a vegan diet. While there is a dedicated and delicious plant-based restaurant on board – Razzle Dazzle – sailors dining at other eateries on board had few vegan options to choose from, which can make for a more limited taste of the culinary experience.
The cabins are super-luxurious
I'll admit, before embarking on the Valiant Lady, I was a tad nervous about what the cabins would be like. I still had the years-old memory of fighting seasickness with a can of ginger ale in a claustrophobic box room, so I was hoping that Virgin's equivalent would be far more spacious – and I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised.
The cabins are spacious and modern
Light and airy, the rooms are incredibly modern and adorned with hints of Virgin's 'cherry red' colour scheme. I was allocated a Sea Terrace Room complete with a cosy balcony for two and plenty of wardrobe space, which if you know me well, you'd know I definitely need!
The best thing about the room was the high-tech tablet which managed everything from the 43" 4K flat-screen – that boasts a film & TV library BTW – to the mood lighting and curtains in the room.
The rooms feature different mood light settings
The only thing I ever struggled with was remembering the room key – AKA the allocated waterproof bracelets that are given to each and every Virgin sailor.
While the nautical-themed design was extremely cute as an accessory, every twenty minutes or so I'd find my bracelet coming loose, and in hindsight, the classic room keys that you normally receive in hotels and on most cruise ships are definitely easier to keep track of.
You will NEVER be bored on the Valiant Lady
I'm a creature of habit, usually, after five days of sitting poolside I start to miss my home comforts but with so much to do on the ship, I never found myself bored.
On The Rocks – one of the ship's many stylish bars
There are endless bars, a signature nightclub inspired by Richard Branson's history in the music industry, a multi-form theatre with shows every night, an arcade full of retro classics and a high street full of tempting souvenirs and clothing, plus a tattoo parlour and hairstyling beauty bar, to name a few.
Excursions are well worth the money
Off the ship, each and every port you dock in has numerous excursions, which you can book as a 'Shore Thing' on Virgin's app. There was definitely a wide selection of things to do, ranging from food and wine tastings to historic tours underground, cycling trips or a visit to A-list loved beach clubs, but if you're intending to explore at your own pace, you might have a hard time getting around certain ports without an expensive cab.
The destinations were stunning
One of our stops was Marina di Carrara – a city in Tuscany. Providing stunning panoramic views from the boat, once we got off we quickly realised that simply ambling about and finding a nice spot for an aperitif would be impossible. It's worth booking excursions for a few of your dream destinations if you can, otherwise, you could end up missing out.
Would I travel with Virgin Voyages again?
Definitely! A worthwhile holiday for 18+'s, I would specifically recommend the Valiant Lady to any couples looking for a much-needed getaway this summer. The food definitely brought the wow factor more than anything else, but the staff, facilities and gorgeous destinations were also top tier.
How much does it cost to sail on the Valiant Lady?
The Valiant Lady is specifically targeted at sailing around the Mediterranean, and there are a number of different destinations to choose from.
Prices start from £824.53 per sailor. To book your trip, visit virginvoyages.com
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